As You Like It (PG)
BBC Film; Crave; IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Wikipedia
streaming sites: HBO Max
What to say first? I remember seeing an ad for this in a magazine around the time it first aired on HBO. Now that I've watched it, some years later, I find that it came out in 2006, but I feel like it came out much earlier than that. *shrug* That's memory, for you. Totally unreliable. Also I should say it didn't have much of a theatrical release, and I'm torn as to whether to put it in the feature films section or the TV movies section, but whatever. I'm calling it a feature. Also I should say it's directed by Kenneth Branagh, who's someone I've always had a vague sense of being a fan of, though I can never recall exactly what I've seen him act in or what I've seen him direct. Also I should say... obviously this is an adaptation of the play by William Shakespeare. I haven't read it nor seen any other adaptations, so I can't say precisely how much this movie diverges from the original, although I will say it's set in 19th century Japan, for no readily apparent reason. I'm pretty sure the original didn't have ninjas or sumo wrestlers, but other than that, the setting seems to add nothing of any significance to the story. It's still mostly a bunch of people with British accents reading very Shakespearean dialog that's not always easy to follow. I never had an entirely clear idea of what was going on, but I can at least say that there were a fair number of parts that I found reasonably amusing.
Anyway, so there's this duke named Senior, apparently, who was overthrown by his brother, Duke Frederick. Frederick banished Senior to the Forest of Arden. This of course upsets Senior's daughter, Rosalind (Bryce Dallas Howard). Her only comfort is her cousin Celia (Frederick's daughter). Frederick wants to banish Rosalind, who he doesn't trust, but basically, Celia says that if Rosalind goes, she goes. Meanwhile, there's this other family, mainly two brothers, Oliver and Orlando De Boys, who have some squabble. The older brother, Oliver, cut Orlando (David Oyelowo) out of his inheritance, I guess. Anyway, Rosalind falls in love with Orlando, and he with her. (Seems like love at first sight, which isn't something I believe in, but I'm usually willing to overlook that for Shakespeare's sake.) Eventually Rosalind and Celia both decide to run away to the Forest of Arden, using assumed names (and Rosalind dresses like a man; one of those disguises that it's impossible to believe no one sees through, but again... suspension of disbelief is important to the story, so whatever). Around the same time, Orlando flees to the forest with a servant who warned him that Oliver was going to try to kill him.
Now, in the forest there are lots of characters, and I can't always tell who's who, or who's in whose company. There's a poet (or something) named Touchstone (Alfred Molina), who I think accompanied the girls, for some reason. He eventually decides he wants to marry some peasant woman named Audrey, though his intentions aren't really honorable. And there's some random guy named Silvius who wants to marry a girl named Phebe. But she clearly has no interest in him. Instead, she develops an interest in Rosalind, of course having no idea she's not a man. Meanwhile, Rosalind hatches this insane scheme when she meets up with Orlando, to have him pretend she's Rosalind, so she can teach him not to love her. He, of course, agrees because he believes she'll fail in this endeavor. It is absolutely ludicrous... I should say, ludicrous squared... that not only does he not see through her disguise as a man, but doesn't even recognize her as who she truly is while pretending that she's only pretending that she's actually herself. But whatever, it's insane, but hilarious. There's also a guy named Jaques (Kevin Kline, who also had a role in another Shakespearean adaptation the setting of which was changed, A Midsummer Night's Dream). I'm not sure what he's supposed to be, except some kind of odd philosopher or something, and kind of a wise fool. I dunno. But I guess he was with Duke Senior. There was also a shepherd, whose name I didn't catch (Corin, maybe), but for part of the movie I thought he was Senior (because they're both old white dudes with bushy greyish beards). Oddly enough, though Corin (or whatever his name was) was a different guy played by a different actor than Senior, I didn't notice that Senior and Frederick were both played by Brian Blessed (because Frederick's beard was black). And there were various other people, and different characters from one camp occasionally interacted with various characters from the other camp, so like I said, I couldn't keep any of it straight.
But anyway. Lots of ridiculous stuff went on that made no sense to me, but it was amusing. I feel like it could have been better, and someday I should read the play in its original form. Or something. This wasn't bad, though. And it has a fairly happy ending for everyone, though of course all of it requires a huge suspension of disbelief on so many counts....